As you watch your child reach for the iPad or the television remote, you can’t help but wonder the effect technology has on his or her growth and development. You’ve noticed he doesn’t like to play outdoors, and she only quotes her favorite cartoons.
According Mayo Clinic, some screen time can serve educational purposes, but too much TV leads to a variety of health and behavioral problems. Children who watch more than two hours a day tend to have a greater likelihood of experiencing obesity, irregular sleep schedules, impaired academic performance, and decreased verbal intelligence.
So what can you do to encourage your children to reconnect with nature?
1. Read Fun Books
To spark your child’s imagination and rekindle his or her love for nature, grab a few books and read before bedtime. These timeless titles all illustrate nature in a fun, exciting, and endearing way:
- The Wump World by Bill Peet
- The Curious Garden by Peter Brown
- The Little House by Virginia Lee Burtons
- On Meadowview Street by Henry Cole
- Just a Dream by Chris Van
- Allsburg Weslandia by Paul Fleischman
Once you’ve finished with these, let your children browse for books on their own. They may surprise you with what they pick.
2. Create a Work of Art
Many children love hands-on experiences, and the messier the better. Let your children explore their inner artist and create meaningful works of art.
Here are a few ideas to help you start:
- Create a nature journal and fill it with drawings of trees, leaves, and flowers.
- Paint animals on rocks and let them keep it as a pet.
- Collect leaves, sticks, and pebbles on a nature walk. Glue them to cardboard to create a one-of-a-kind landscape. Dip pinecones into paint and roll them on paper to print beautiful designs.
- Use nuts and shells to fashion trendy jewelry.
- Combine sticks and clay to form sculptures.
- Make wind chimes out of shells and string.
- Decorate flowerpots with snail shells and then grow a tiny garden.
The sky’s the limit! Let your children’s creativity fly as free as the birds.
3. Plan Family Outings
The whole family should have fun as they reconnect with nature, not just your little ones. Plan family outings that involve everyone, from your youngest toddlers to your eldest teens.
As go on adventures consider doing the following:
- Check out the aquarium, animal museum, or botanical garden
- Hike or bike nearby trails
- Go camping at state parks
- Take a vacation to the beach or lake
- Watch the sunrise or sunset
- Grab a telescope and go stargazing
- Walk around your neighborhood
- Participate in a nature scavenger hunt
Need a few more ideas? Ask your children! They’ll likely have a few places they want to see or activities they want to do.
4. Build a Safe Environment
Some children might not feel comfortable playing on their own at a park or even in their own backyard. Or perhaps you might feel stressed at the idea of your little one touching (or even tasting) objects from unknown origins.
To ensure both you and your child feel happy and relaxed, create a safe space in your backyard. Put up sturdy fences around more dangerous areas, and teach children that they shouldn’t pick or smash any plants you may have in the flowerbed.
You can also set up good playground equipment to help entertain your kids. A simple swing set, slide, or playhouse fuels the imagination and promotes active play. Just make sure you use quality materials-opt for smooth, soft rubber rather than rough rope and wood. And cover the areas around your playground with shock-absorbing materials, such as mulch or sand.
And don’t forget to inspect your backyard regularly-replace worn play equipment or cover sharp edges as needed.
5. Provide Tools for Discovery
Children don’t always need expensive playgrounds or organized activities to enjoy Mother Nature. Sometimes all they want is some room to explore and basic tools to inspect their discoveries.
If you wish, fill a backpack with the following:
- Butterfly net
- Magnifying glass
- Pencil, crayons, and paper
Teach your children how to safely use these items and interact with insects or other animals.
And remember, these items don’t need to cost a fortune. Even the most careful and cautious child might accidentally break their tools during play time. Child-friendly plastic items will save you a lot of heartache and money.
6. Set a Positive Example
Your children watch what you do, so set a positive example. In addition to encouraging your child to explore nature, give yourself some time to pursue your favorite outdoor hobbies. Grab your camera and snap some close-ups of your favorite flowers. Pull weeds from your garden and plant a few trees in your yard.
With these methods, you and your children will develop a personal, thrilling relationship with nature in almost no time.
Studies show that healthy foods help kids do better in school. In one study, children who ate more vegetables, fruit, protein and fiber did better on literacy tests than kids who ate foods high in salt and saturated fat.
While you know healthy foods are the right choice for your children, it can be difficult to get them to eat healthy snacks. Why would your kids want to eat apples and carrots when they can choose potato chips and candy bars?
Fortunately, there are plenty of healthy snack options that are still yummy for kids. Here are a few treats that will make kids’ bodies healthy and tummies happy.
1. Fruit Smoothie
Kids love the sweet, creamy taste of smoothies. There’s no need to make smoothies packed with sugar-instead, try healthy ingredients like fruits and vegetables.
To start, try this recipe for a high-fiber broccoli smoothie. All you need to do is blend the following ingredients:
- 1 avocado
- 1 banana
- 1 cup chopped broccoli
- 1 cup cherries
- 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed
- 1 cup pomegranate juice
2. Yogurt Parfait
This is a healthy alternative to ice cream-and a very tasty dessert. In a cup, layer the following:
Instead of regular yogurt, try Greek yogurt, which is packed with protein to help your growing kids build muscle. It also contains probiotics, which aid digestion. And don’t forget about brain-boosting blueberries, which reduce short-term memory loss.
3. Ants on a Log
Kids love making this recipe themselves. It resembles ants climbing across a log, but it’s really a great source of vitamins, minerals, and protein.
- Cut celery sticks into small pieces. These are the “logs.”
- Spread natural peanut butter into the crevice of each celery stick. Peanut butter is a great source of fiber, potassium, andantioxidants.
- Stick raisins (“ants”) in the peanut butter.
4. Fruit and Cheese Kebabs
Small pieces of cheese give your kids calcium, zinc, and other vitamins and minerals, and fruits like apples, bananas, strawberries, pineapple, and mango give your kids many vitamins and minerals. Arranging fruit and cheese into a delicious kebab can make these foods even more fun for your kids to eat.
Cut pieces of cheese and fruit, and layer them on a kebab skewer. Then eat and enjoy!
5. Yogurt Pops
What kid doesn’t love popsicles? With a yogurt pop, your kids get a healthy treat. Here’s what you do:
- Blend 2 containers yogurt, 2 cups cut-up fruit, and 1 tablespoon honey.
- Put the mixture in paper cups.
- Cover the cups with foil.
- Put a craft stick into the center of each cup. Freeze for 6 hours.
6. Whole Wheat Crackers and Hummus
Whole wheat reduces the risk of heart disease, obesity, and many other diseases. Choose whole wheat crackers for your kids, and have them dip the crackers in hummus, a dip high in vitamins, protein, and heart-healthy fats. Kids also love to dip carrots, cucumbers, and other vegetables.
Store-bought microwave popcorn contains many artificial flavors. However, air-popped popcorn is high in protein and dietary fiber. Popcorn will fill your kids up and provide great nutritional value-just hold back on the butter and salt.
Kids will love getting a paper bag filled with popcorn that they can take to school or activities.
8. Homemade Trail Mix
Let your kids make their own trail mix by choosing their favorite mix of various foods. Include the following nutritious foods:
- Peanuts, which add protein to the mix
- Almonds, which lower cholesterol and help build strong bones
- Cranberries, which fight diseases thanks to their antioxidants
- Dark chocolate chips, which provide nutrients like iron and magnesium and could even lower blood pressure when eaten in small amounts
- Cheerios, which contain soluble fiber that lowers cholesterol
9. Banana-Oat Snack Cakes
Instead of grabbing a sugary granola bar, kids can enjoy these homemade snack cakes. They contain heart-healthy oats and potassium-rich bananas.
- 1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
- 1 cup flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/4 cups light brown sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces and melted
- 3 bananas (chopped)
- Set oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Coat a baking dish with butter, and then cover with parchment paper.
- Whisk oats, flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.
- In a separate bowl, whisk brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla.
- Slowly add butter to brown sugar mixture and whisk.
- Add bananas to dry ingredients and toss.
- Stir dry mixture into brown sugar mixture.
- Spread batter in the dish.
- Bake about 35 to 40 minutes.
- Let cool and cut.
Remember, kids need frequent snacks to keep up their energy and brain power. Your kids can eat these snacks at home or bring them to school or activities. Pack your kids some of these delicious, nutritious snacks, and help them start a healthy lifestyle early on.
It’s the first day of school. You pull into the parking lot, park your car, unbuckle your preschooler, and slowly walk toward the school. You hear your child breathing deeply and look down to make sure he’s okay. You catch sight of his eyes, now brimming with tears, and begin to worry.
Your child is shy. How is he going to survive his first few days of school?
If you have a child that struggles with shyness or social phobia, you are not alone. According to a recent study conducted in the United States, nearly 40 percent of children have reported shyness. Fortunately, you can combat shyness and help your child feel comfortable in a group setting long before preschool starts.
1. Explore Extracurricular Activities
Dance? Check. Basketball? Check. Theater? Check. There are dozens of extracurricular activities you can involve your children in throughout the year. If you want to prepare your children for preschool interactions, sign up for extracurricular activities a year before school starts. Some popular and unique extracurricular activities include the following:
- Music groups
- Group sports (tennis, T-ball, soccer, basketball)
- Gymnastics and cheerleading
- Chess clubs
- Baking and/or cooking
Extracurricular activities will help your children learn to share, communicate, work in a team, and understand body language. Activities stimulate your child’s brain and help him feel more comfortable in a social situation. Visit your local recreational center to see which activities are available near you.
2. Maintain Balance
Your child needs balance. If your son starts playing basketball and forms a mild obsession, incorporate different activities into his schedule to ensure he is a well-rounded individual. Often, similar personality types get involved in similar activities. Open your child’s mind to different personality types with an array of activities.
If your son likes basketball, sign him up for a summer theater camp to learn more about performance arts. If your daughter loves chess, sign her up for an 8-week dance course so she can dip her toes into a variety of fun activities. Help your child learn about and try different activities to maintain a healthy and balanced schedule.
3. Encourage and Support Dreams
On the other hand, it’s important to let your child develop skills that will help him or her get better at one hobby or activity. If your son loves basketball and dreams of playing in high school, college, or the NBA, support him. Help him integrate himself in the basketball culture so he can make long-lasting friendships and connections.
4. Create a Play Group
If you don’t have the time or money for extracurricular activities, create activities close to home. A neighborhood play group is the perfect way to help your children socialize with neighbors. Call other parents in the neighborhood to decide on a day (most play groups meet twice a week) and then rotate between houses.
Incorporate fun learning activities into your play groups so your children and their friends can get ready for preschool and feel confident with the ABCs and 123s.
5. Socialize Together
“Careful the things you say, children will listen. Careful the things you do, children will see and learn. Children will look to you for which way to turn, to learn what to be.” – Stephen Sondheim, Into the Woods
Monkey see, monkey do. Your children will mimic your behavior. If you want your children to socialize and feel comfortable in a group setting, you need to socialize yourself. Invite friends over for weekly get-togethers so your children can see you conversing and laughing with friends of your own.
If you want to kill two birds with one stone, have your friends bring their children so your family can form lasting relationships with other families. If your child experiences stranger danger, constant contact with friendly adults and children will make your child more comfortable in the company of others.
Another terrific way to socialize with your child is to spend time together. Eat together. Laugh together. Go on walks together. Sing and dance together. Talk together.
You need to form a relationship with your children. Become friends. Listen. Do all you can to help your child feel comfortable opening up and trying new things.
6. Don’t Boast On Your Child’s Behalf
Although you may be tempted to boast about your child, don’t. No parent or child likes to hear about the endless success of another. Jealousy and pride are part of human nature. Don’t alienate your child by constantly boasting. Instead, help your child develop humility so they can fit in in a group setting.
Take the time to get to know your child and understand his needs. Don’t feel overwhelmed if it takes a while for your child to warm up to others. Look for ways to get involved so your child can feel comfortable when the school year starts.
It’s important to start your child’s education off on the right foot. In order to give kids a one-up on their future, many parents send their children to preschool. There are a variety of quality educational institutions across the country who provide younger children an opportunity to learn and grow at earlier ages.
If you’re planning on enrolling your children in preschool, you’ll need to prepare them beforehand. Here are a few tips on how you can do just that.
Read to Them
With so many educational shows on today, sometimes it’s nice to plop the little one down in front of a multicolored dinosaur who sings about sharing, caring, and the ABCs. While that may be an effective way to introduce some topics to your child, make sure you set aside some time each night to read to them.
As you read to your child nightly, you will foster an environment where their imagination can grow. This will help them develop abstract thinking skills, a deeper vocabulary, and stronger listening skills. And as your child sees you reading, they will develop a desire to learn to read as well.
You can check books out from your local library, purchase them at your neighborhood bookstore, or download them from the Internet. With so books covering almost every topic imaginable, you’ll have an easy time finding one your child will enjoy.
Set a Schedule
Children are creatures of habit, which is why setting a schedule for them is imperative. Children’s most basic pattern is their sleep schedule. Your child should wake up and fall asleep around the same time every day. This will help them behave properly while they are awake.
It’s likely that your child’s sleep schedule is in sync with your own. If it is, and your schedule aligns with that of the preschool, then your child should have little trouble getting out of bed and going to school.
If these two schedules differ for any reason, spend a few days before preschool begins adjusting them to a new pattern. This will help solidify their routine once preschool begins.
Increase Social Interactions
Preschool is a great time for your child to develop social skills. They will interact with strangers from different social, religious, and economic groups. Your child will learn to share, communicate, express their emotions, and work and play with others. These skills will help them as they grow in maturity.
Children with limited social experience may benefit from enrollment in pre-curricular classes. Community centers and gyms offer a variety of stimulating activities targeted at helping children interact. Here are a few ideas of classes you can enroll your child in:
Expand their Responsibilities
Before your child starts preschool, it’s a good idea if to give them a few more responsibilities. Start by doing small things. Chores are just one way to help children develop independence. Have them clear away plates and utensils after a meal, or pick up their toys before bedtime.
As your children grow, increase the difficulty of their tasks.
Visit a Classroom
As part of your preschool preparation, it may pay to spend some time in a classroom. This will help your child develop expectations of what to expect in the classroom. It may also give them a chance to meet potential classmates and start to develop lasting social connections. And as a parent, it will give you an opportunity to get to know the teacher, and the way the teacher manages the classroom.
Once you have spent some time in a classroom, spend some time playing school when you get home. Reinforce proper behaviors during a fun play session with your kid. Take turns playing the student and the teacher. As a student, model proper behavior. As a teacher, demonstrate what your child can expect in a classroom.
Pay close attention to how your child acts during this time. This will give you an insight into their mind, and can help you curb negative behaviors before they show up in class.
The last thing you need to do before you little one goes off to preschool is prepare yourself. If you’re used to spending most of your day caring your child, sending them off to school can cause a great deal of emotional stress. Prepare to feel separation anxiety as you drop your baby off for the first time.
On that first day, give yourself plenty of time to arrive at school early. Once your child settles in, leave. This may sound harsh, but the longer you stay, the more difficult it will be to go. And after the minutes have ticked by and it’s time to pick up your little one, stay positive.
Ask questions about how their day went. Listen intently to the things they say. As you show interest in their preschool activities, their interest will increase.
Preschool provides children with a fun way explore their world in a safe, nurturing environment. If you are looking to start your child’s education off on the right foot, find a qualified institution in your area.